"One of the most memorable wines I have ever had was an Yquem, and I think it was from 1980.
My father shared it with me. It had been a gift. My dad is a doctor and one of the other doctors in the firm brought it over to a dinner party. He must have just grabbed it out of his own cellar and given it to my dad without having any idea what it was; someone else must have brought it to his house or something.
My dad said, 'Aww, thanks,' and put it behind the other stuff they were drinking that night. My dad obviously knew what it was and was very excited about it. We had it at my parents' home in New Hampshire after enjoying a really fine meal my mom had cooked.
It was mind-blowing – a fantastic example of an iconic wine, a wine that really defines the style, and a wine that shows the incredible capacity that you can achieve with a botrytized sweet wine.
There were a lot of honeyed aromas and apricots. But it was really just a wine that had layers – the longer it sat in the glass, the more I got out of it, from fruit to flowers. In the mouth, it had layers of flavor that went with the viscosity of the wine.
I wasn’t in the wine industry at the time and I think it was one of a couple of experiences that really brought me into the industry. I have always been interested in science and how plants grow in their environment and I really credit my dad for exposing me to wine at an early stage.
There was a point in my scientific career when I wanted to do something more hands-on than just publish research papers and wonder if anybody had read them. So it was natural that I started to think about wine because there’s a lot of science in wine.
I have had Yquem just once since and had [Château] Rieussec a few times, which is still very good but didn’t blow me away."
– As told to Rebecca Gibb